Aquaculture research: Deep water mussel farming in Newfoundland and Labrador

This video features Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) scientist Dr. Harry Murray and industry partner Terry Mills (Norlantic Processors Ltd.) as they conduct a joint research project under DFO’s Aquaculture Collaborative Research and Development Program to better understand the potential for growing mussels in deeper water and to see if mussels farmed in deep water do as well or better than those in shallow water.


My name is Dr. Harry Murray. I’m a DFO scientist at Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Centre in St. John’s. We’re working on a project to compare the condition of and health of mussels grown in shallow water versus grown in deep-water sites.

[Dr. Harry Murray, Research Scientist, Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO)]

ACRDP – Aquaculture Collaborative Research and Development program. That’s a funding program administered directly by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada and it provides funding money for DFO researchers to work directly with industry.

The grower, Norlantic Processors, whose president is Mr. Terry Mills. Terry came to me with a question about whether or not we could we could start looking at the idea of growing mussels in the offshore. He’s been playing around with this idea for quite a number of years.

[Terry Mills, Norlantic Processors Ltd.]

My name is Terry Mills. I’m with Norlantic Processors Ltd. Plant manager, farm supervisor and I’m also part owner. We started about 7 years ago in this part of the bay and we needed extra grow out sites and the only place left on the Northeast coast was out in the deeper, say the main ocean.

We started to do some research on our own, some, just a commercial trials and the results were encouraging. We were growing mussels out in fairly deep water so we did it a few years, we looked at the results and then we, obviously we were certainly out of our league when it comes to, we had to get some applied science to confirm what we were analyzing and so we met with some DFO people and we met with Harry and we put together and we submitted it and off to the races!

We’re out here in Notre Dame Bay in an area called Pleasantview where we’re looking at working on our ACRDP project to study the growth of and the health of mussels in deep water versus mussels grown in shallow water, which is more typical.

Deep water culture is not a new thing, it’s actually happening in a number of areas around the world. But it is quite new here in Newfoundland. And the idea of going offshore is to increase the overall sustainability of the industry.

As part of this project we have been also collecting environmental data. Environmental data is important because the animals grow in the water environment, obviously, and the anything that happens in the water environment is going to affect mussels directly.

This instrument here is called an echosonde and it’s an oceanographic instrument that allows us to measure various environmental parameters like oxygen, temperature, salinity and chlorophyll. We are going to be using it today to do an environmental or oceanographic profile of the water column.

There is some thought that there are areas in deep water that are basically concentrated food for the mussels. If you can find the zone in the deep water and put your mussels there, than the mussels should do very very well.

If you can find that zone than the mussels will be in the optimal position for growth and for health and very low stress. The other thought is that in deep water the environment is a lot more stable. So the animals like a more stable environment. The more stable the environment is the better they’ll be as well.

We’re learning a tremendous amount and over this period of time we were able also to bring in a really fantastic graduate student over there, Daria Gallardi. She’s a PhD student working on the project and she’s introduced a lot of really new and really innovative ideas to the whole project.

[Daria Gallardi, PhD candidate at Memorial University of Newfoundland]

What we are looking into is the physiological stress response of the mussels. So we are looking in to some genes of interest that are related to particular to environmental characteristics like temperature or salinity, for example.

This is the part of the work where we look at the changes of certain types of enzymes related to the environmental response of the mussels. We know from previous work that has been done that there are certain proteins and their associated genes that can respond to stress factors, changes in salinity, to temperature and such. So we are looking at a group of specific genes related to this type of system. So what we need to do is, we need to sample from the gill tissue. We are going to freeze this and bring it back to the laboratory where we can run specific molecular biology tests on this type of tissue to let us know how these genes are responding over time.

The results have indicated that mussels grown in deep water sites do a little better than those grown in shallow water.

The project was certainly worthwhile from a science point of view and also from a commercial application to mussel farming in deep water.

This work is very important to the industry itself as the mussel culture industry is expanding the numbers of these shallow water sites are decreasing and which becomes a big problem as the industry expands. So it’s a good idea to start exploring moving offshore in to more deeper areas so that we can maintain or improve on the sustainability of the industry over time.

There are still many questions to be answered. We got a lot of questions answered and I think that this process and this project will certainly be advanced to other parts and other regions of Canada and probably anywhere in the world.

This is a mussel sock taken from our south arm deep site. So mussels were hanging from 15 meters below the surface for 12 months and this is what you get: fantastic mussels.


Special thanks to:

Norlantic Processors Ltd.
Terry Mills
Crew Members
Murray Allen
Dwayne Blake
Roger Brett
Marjory Brett
Wallace Sheppard

Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s Aquaculture Collaborative
Research and Development Program (ACRDP)

ACRDP Research Team Members
Lead Scientist (DFO)
Dr. Harry Murray
PhD Candidate
Daria Gallardi
Research Technicians (DFO)
Dwight Drover and Sharon Kenny

Memorial University of Newfoundland

Video Production Team
Project Management (DFO)
Tara Donaghy
Science Advisor (DFO)
Emily Nelson
Administrative Assistance (DFO)
Dominique Bussière

Production and Direction
Wavelight Productions


© Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada, 2015